N.Y. Corruption Commission Calls for Legislation

ALBANY (AP) -

An anti-corruption commission report released Monday proposes taxpayers’ money be used to help fund political campaigns among a slew of ideas to combat Albany’s notorious misconduct but calls for no heads to roll.

The commission, created by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo six months ago, proposes many of the ideas that had been sought by Cuomo but were rejected by the Legislature. Whether the Legislature, which has fought the commission’s subpoenas, is any more willing to support Cuomo’s reforms is uncertain going into an election year.

The commission also seeks lower limits for contributions, greater disclosure of legislators’ private law firm clients, greater disclosure of who contributes to politicians and political parties, and a new enforcement body.

“Our ongoing investigations have revealed phantom health clinics, inexplicable statutes, pay-to-play arrangements, under-disclosed outside income, misuse of party ‘housekeeping accounts,’ potentially improper use of campaign funds, and more,” the preliminary report concluded. “The need for reform, now, is clear. Delay should not be an option. We have proposed in this report a broad menu of reforms. These measures will be a strong step toward reining in corruption and restoring New Yorkers’ trust in government.”

The commission has the power to refer cases to local prosecutors but doesn’t mention any legislators in this report. The commission will continue to operate, but the report was a major goal.

Cuomo told former Democratic Gov. David Paterson on his radio show that the public has lost confidence and “the public has lost trust.”

“If we restore trust,” Cuomo said in addressing lawmakers, “your power is actually increased as is your ability to do good.”

Cuomo created the commission after the latest spate of corruption cases brought by federal prosecutors. About 30 public officials have been involved in corruption cases over the last seven years.

The Senate’s Republicans reiterated Tuesday their opposition to using public money to fund campaigns, which they say could be better used to bolster schools and cut taxes.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has built a nearly unassailable $30 million campaign fund. He has benefited from campaign-like ads from a lobbying group that refused to identify its donors and from fundraisers such as his Tuesday birthday event.